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Virtual Star Party – Sep. 30, 2012: Breaking the Rules Edition

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We had another fantastic Virtual Star Party Sunday night, with a packed crew of astronomers, including a new face: Bill McLaughlin, streaming from Oregon.

Many many objects joined the party including: Andromeda, Cave Nebula, Pacman Nebula, Double Star Albiero, Wizard Nebula, Cat’s Paw Nebula, Veil Nebula, North America Nebula, Double Cluster, and more.

Astronomers:Stuart Forman, Roy Salisbury, Mike Chasin, Gary Gonella, Bill McLaughlin, David...

Mercury’s Surface is Full of Sulfur

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Mercury’s Surface is Full of Sulfur

The southern portion of Mercury’s Vivaldi basin and outlying rugged terrain

Named for the 17th-century Venetian composer, the southern half of Mercury’s Vivaldi basin is seen in this image acquired on August 26 by NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft. The 213-km (132-mile) -wide crater’s smooth floor is contrasted by the incredibly rugged terrain beyond its outermost ring — a result of the ejected material that was flung out...

Watch Live: A Day in the Life of the Very Large Telescope

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Watch Live: A Day in the Life of the Very Large Telescope

Ever wonder what takes place on a daily basis at one of the premier ground-based observatories? The European Southern Observatory (ESO) is celebrating its 50th anniversary, and on October 5, 2012, they will host a free, live event on the web, “A Day in the Life of ESO.” There will be live observations from ESO’s flagship observatory, the Very Large Telescope (VLT), on Cerro Paranal in Chile’s Atacama Desert, as well as talks from astronomers at...

Surprise! Hot Venus has a Cold Upper Atmosphere

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Surprise! Hot Venus has a Cold Upper Atmosphere

Venus’ terminator – the transitional region between day and night — may fuel an unusually cold region in the atmosphere. Credit: ESA/MPS, Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany

The hottest planet in the Solar System has a surprisingly cold region high in the planet’s atmosphere, according to new findings by the Venus Express spacecraft. While surface temperatures on this hot and hostile planet tops out at 735 Kelvin, or 462 degrees Celsius, ESA s...

Weekly SkyWatcher’s Forecast: October 1-7, 2012

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Weekly SkyWatcher’s Forecast: October 1-7, 2012

Greetings, fellow SkyWatchers! Normally we don’t pay much attention to the waning Moon, but this week will be a bit different. Why not enjoy some alternative studies by viewing familiar features in a different light?! Of course, we might just pick up a galaxy or catch a snowball! When you’re ready, just meet me in the back yard… (...)
Read the rest of Weekly SkyWatcher’s Forecast: October 1-7, 2012 (2,899 words)


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Pictures From T-86: Cassini’s Latest Flyby of Titan

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Pictures From T-86: Cassini’s Latest Flyby of Titan

On September 26-27 Cassini executed its latest flyby of Titan, T-86, coming within 594 miles (956 km) of the cloud-covered moon in order to measure the effects of the Sun’s energy on its dense atmosphere and determine its variations at different altitudes.

The image above was captured as Cassini approached Titan from its night side, traveling about 13,000 mph (5.9 km/s). It’s a color-composite made from three separate raw images...

Roving Curiosity at Work on Mars Searching for Ingredients of Life

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Roving Curiosity at Work on Mars Searching for Ingredients of Life

Image Caption: Curiosity at work on Mars inside Gale Crater. Panoramic mosaic showing Curiosity in action with her wheel tracks and the surrounding terrain snapped from the location the rover drove to on Sol 29 (Sept 4). The time lapse imagery highlights post drive wheel tracks at left, movement of the robotic arm from the stowed to deployed position with pointing instrument turret at right with Mt Sharp and a self portrait of Curiosity’s i...

ESA’s Big Cargo Ship Departs from the Space Station

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After a three-day delay, the European Space Agency’s “Edoardo Amaldi” Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-3) undocked from the aft port of the International Space Station’s Zvezda service module at 21:44 UTC (5:44 p.m. EDT) on Friday.

Tuesday’s initial attempt to undock the European cargo ship was called off due to a communications error between the Zvezda module’s proximity communications equipment and computers on the ATV. Russian flight con...

Peekaboo Sun: SDO’s Eclipse Season

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Peekaboo Sun: SDO’s Eclipse Season

Now you see it, now you don’t! Around the solstices, the Solar Dynamics Observatory ends up having an “eclipse season,” where the Sun, Earth, and the SDO line up, and some of the images and video sent down from the spacecraft appear as though the Sun disappears for a while or just part of the Sun is visible. This is a normal part of life with a geosynchronous observatory, the SDO team says.

They explain it this way:
(...)
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